Quoted in the New York Times

The New York Times > Education Life > If You Went Here, You'd Be Sitting Pretty Now

My moment of fame, being quoted in the NY Times as an expert. Feels good. The link requires registration, but you can go to BugMeNot and put in www.nytimes.com to find a free username and password to use.


**UPDATE - this is the weirdest thing. This link worked and went to a version of the full article that I copied and pasted in here. But I checked my blog, and it was gone, and now the link goes to an archive. WTF? Well, fuck it. Here's the article again, with my contribution in bold. Reprinted without permission:

If You Went Here, You'd Be Sitting Pretty Now

April 25, 2004
By SCOTT JASCHIK AND DOUGLAS LEDERMAN

Founded in 1879, Sullivan & Cromwell is a classic
white-shoe law firm. It has stately financial-district
offices with views of the Statue of Liberty and a history
that includes brokering deals that paid for building the
Panama Canal. Landing a job at Sullivan & Cromwell is not
easy. This June, about 90 lucky students will get entree to
entry-level jobs through summer associate positions
(internships) -- that's great, compared with 60 last
summer, but well below the 130 in 2001.

A bias toward elite law schools is strong here, and the
firm's partners make no apologies. Recruiters typically
visit 12 to 15 schools each year, and while the list
changes a bit over time, the stalwarts are Stanford, the
University of Chicago, Michigan and the four law schools
from which almost half its partners graduated: Harvard,
Yale, Columbia and New York University. ''Write-ins'' from
unsolicited schools land maybe a half-dozen spots.

Benjamin F. Stapleton III, a Yale law graduate and senior
partner, acknowledges that alma mater is not a perfect way
to evaluate candidates. ''Sometimes the people with the
best grades at the best schools can't make a decision,'' he
says. But ''these facts are the only proxies we've got for
intelligence and effort as people begin their careers.''

Brian Leiter, a professor at the University of Texas School
of Law at Austin, studies trends in job placement and
developed a formula to determine which law schools placed
the largest percentage of graduates at top national firms.
The schools topping Mr. Leiter's list are not surprising,
either: Harvard, Chicago, Michigan, Yale, University of
Virginia. At Cravath, Swaine & Moore, which has about 500
lawyers on staff at a firm that goes back to 1819, he found
110 Harvard law graduates, 88 Columbia graduates, 59 N.Y.U.
graduates and no other school with more than 30 lawyers at
the firm.

But Mr. Leiter cautions against worrying too much about
statistics at such firms, which occupy a rarefied place in
the legal world. Most people end up at ''a D.A.'s office or
a firm with eight lawyers,'' he says.

It's the local economy that has the greatest influence on
law jobs, and over all the picture is improving. Besides,
prosecutors and public defenders are immune to economic
shifts. But the downturn created larger-than-expected law
classes as the uncertain retreated to education. A record
140,600 students were attending 186 schools accredited by
the American Bar Association in 2002-03, the most ever.

Syracuse University's first-year class this year has 336
students, well above the target of 270. The University of
Connecticut experienced a bulge last year, when 248
enrolled, compared with a goal of 210.

To make graduates more attractive in an increasingly
competitive market, both schools have joined the trend of
creating certificate programs or concentrations of
electives in hot new fields. Syracuse created clusters
around the themes of counterterrorism and national
security, disability law and indigenous people's issues.
UConn developed programs in intellectual property, taxation
and, playing off the state's major industry, insurance.

To law experts, questions about job options do not start at
graduation but at admissions, and they advise serious
soul-searching about career and life goals. If you want the
option of joining the fast track, a prestige school is
essential. ''Going to Loyola Law School can lead you to a
pretty lucrative, satisfying life in Los Angeles,'' says
Adam Avitable, a manager of Legal Authority, a Web site
that helps law students find jobs. ''But if you want to
have any chance of going national, you really have to be at
U.C.L.A. or U.S.C.''


While a law degree is a necessary credential to practice
law, it is also increasingly desirable for positions in
government, business and nonprofit work. But deans caution
about seeing law as a path and not an end. Gerald Wilson, a
senior associate dean at Duke University who advises prelaw
undergraduates, starts by asking students why they want to
go to law school. One red flag is when he hears: ''I'm
going to law school, but I don't want to be a lawyer.''

''I ask them, 'What is it that you do want to do?' ''Mr.
Wilson says. ''A legal education is a powerful instrument,
but you have to decide if it's worth three years of your
life and perhaps $100,000, plus lost income, to help you
get there.'' If students are ''drifting into law school as
opposed to actively seeking it,'' he says, ''I will do
everything I can to go convince them to do something else
until they have a real reason to go.''

Michael Young, dean of George Washington University's law
school, puts it more bluntly: ''Law is possibly a route
into politics, business, etc., but it's not a sure route by
any stretch. The vast majority of people who start in the
law die in the law.''

Scott Jaschik is former editor of The Chronicle of Higher
Education; Douglas Lederman is former managing editor. Both
write freelance in the Washington area.

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